My doctor wants to use electricity to help my spine heal after fusion surgery. How does this work?

Electrical stimulation has been shown to promote bone growth that leads to spinal fusion. This technique was first used in the 1950s but has only recently been applied to the spine. It seems to be especially helpful for high-risk patients like smokers, patients who are overweight, and those who need fusions at multiple levels of the spine.

There are a couple of ways to get electrical stimulation. Your surgeon can implant a device that delivers a mild electrical current directly to the healing site. Or you could wear a pulsing device over your skin after surgery. Depending on the type of electrical current, you would need to wear the device anywhere from eight to 24 hours a day. This would last for six to eight months, or until healing occurred.

The first method really targets the fusion site, but it's also more invasive. The second method is a little less direct. Its success depends on how regularly you wear the device. Talk to your doctor about which method he or she suggests in your case.